SENCO stands for special educational needs coordinator. A SENCO’s role is to ensure a school meets the educational needs of a child with SEN (special educational needs).
All mainstream primary and secondary schools (schools funded by the government) must have a SENCO. The roles of a teacher and a SENCO are very similar and, as such, the job can only be done by a qualified or nearly qualified teacher with two years’ teaching experience, a head teacher or appointed acting head. This person must also be familiar with the special educational needs and disability (SEND) code of practice, which lays out the statutory requirements for identifying and supporting young people with SEN or disabilities. Since 2009, new SENCOs must complete the National Award for Special Educational Needs Coordination.
The main duties of a SENCO are set out in the SEND code of practice 2014. The primary focus of the role is to coordinate provision for children with SEN and involves liaising with: parents, early years providers, other schools (particularly before and during school moves), educational psychologists and those working in many social care jobs within education, health and care (including CAMHS, social services, family support workers and youth groups). They are also a key point of contact for local authorities. In addition, a SENCO provides advice based on delegated budgets to ensure effective delivery, while also being responsible for the school’s compliance of the Equality Act (2010), which requires that children with SEN are given equal priority. Another crucial element of a SENCO’s role is to make sure that the school’s policy on special educational needs is carried out effectively by all staff.
Unlike in mainstream schools, where the SENCO must be a qualified teacher (or in the process of qualifying), this is not the case in special schools. Although, here, a member of staff will often be employed to carry out the SENCO role.
Many children and young people on the autism spectrum have special educational needs, so SENCOs should know about autism and Asperger syndrome as part of their job.
The role of a SENCO is varied, challenging, and rewarding. Key skills required include: team work, time management, prioritising and managing finances, determination and compassion.
A SENCO’s primary goal is to provide the best academic opportunities for every pupil in their school with SEN.